I’ve had two labors, both induced, and both resulting in the vaginal birth of a healthy baby. (I know how lucky I am to be able to say that.) Before the first induction, I was terrified because I’d read, watched, and educated myself into a semi-religious state glorifying natural childbirth.
While I still love to read women’s natural childbirth stories, and I believe that for most women who desire it, a birth with very few medical interventions can be a beautiful and safe experience, there are a few things I felt misled about regarding induction.
Here are six things I believed to be true about a medically induced labor and delivery, before I experienced it myself.
Myth: Pitocin will send you straight into active labor with no build up.
During my first induction, I was on Pitocin for 36 hours before I ever felt a contraction. During my second, it took almost 24 hours. Both times Pitocin produced contractions, but they were only mildly uncomfortable until my water was broken. I’d say that was plenty of build up time for me.
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Myth: Pitocin will produce very regular, predictable contractions.
During both of my inductions, my contractions would go through periods of regularity, and then long periods of wild variability. They were impossible to predict. (My mom and sister, who both went into labor spontaneously, never had completely regular contractions either.)
Myth: If you go in to be induced, you'll have your baby the next day.
Birth #1: Went in on Tuesday night, the baby was born Thursday at 10:22 p.m. Birth #2: Went in on Friday night, the baby was born Sunday at 12:41pm. It can take a long time, even if you're already somewhat dilated and your cervix is ripe.
If you want the drugs, more power to you, but if for any reason you want to avoid them, it's definitely possible.
Myth: It is impossible to endure Pitocin contractions without pain medication.
Perhaps a truer statement would be that it is probably impossible to endure Pitocin contractions without requesting pain medication. I got through the contractions with the help of my husband, doula, and some crazy-sounding whale noises. Yes, at transition both times I reached a point of desperation and tried to convince my birth team to give me the drugs, but by then it was too late, and we all knew it. If you want the drugs, more power to you, but if for any reason you want to avoid them, it's definitely possible.
Myth: Your second baby will come much faster than the first, even if labor is induced.
Everyone—all the midwives and nurses and doctors—sold me this bill of goods. And I guess it's technically true that the actual induction period was shorter by 10 hours. But would you call 30 hours “fast” by any definition? It can still take a long time, even if it’s not your first baby.
Myth: Pushing is not as painful as Pitocin contractions—it’s a relief!
I can’t count the number of birth stories I read that described a sweet moment of relief and empowerment when you’re finally able to start pushing. I experienced the opposite. Instead of relief, I felt almost indignant that I was being required to put in superhuman effort after all the work I’d already done. Pushing was work, and with my first baby, it took four hours. Pushing out my second baby took just 20 minutes, but they were 20 painful, intense minutes.
Of course, this was just my experience and perhaps all these myths are in fact truths for most women. As with anything regarding pregnancy, birth, and parenting, your mileage my vary.